Over the coming offseason, the Angels will explore the possibility of adding young, starting pitching through a trade of 30-year-old second baseman Howie Kendrick, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The club came close to dealing Kendrick to the cross-town Dodgers at the trade deadline, which reportedly would have netted a top pitching prospect in Zach Lee. Heyman adds that the club is less interested in shopping Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, and Erick Aybar, each of whom is controlled through 2017.
Kendrick inked a four-year, $33.5MM extension after a big 2011 campaign in which he posted a .285/.338/.464 triple-slash to go with fourteen steals and eighteen long balls. Depending upon whether his defense was viewed as excellent or merely average, he contributed between 4.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference) and 5.7 WAR (Fangraphs) that year. After a down 2012 saw his on-base and (especially) power numbers fall, leaving him with a roughly league-average line, Kendrick has rebounded at the plate in 2013 and is currently hitting .301/.341/.437. With his fielding and baserunning ticking slightly up and then back down, Kendrick has been valued as a three-win player over this year and last.
The net is that Kendrick has demonstrated the capacity to be excellent and seems to have established a baseline as an above-average player. He does not turn 31 until next July, and has been resiliant over his career, though he is currently on the DL with a knee injury. With two years and $18.85MM left on his contract, he should be a reasonably attractive commodity on the trade market, although he is certainly not a bargain at this point.
Also benefitting the Angels is the status of Kendrick's no-trade protection, which drops from twelve teams to just six next year (and four in 2015). That should make it easier for the Angels to find compatible trade partners, though one might expect Kendrick's agency (Reynolds Sports Management) to choose keystone-needy, ready-to-spend clubs for the list.
For the Angels, the challenge in shopping Kendrick will be to get sufficient value while avoiding the creation of a new hole at second. To be sure, the Angels face an imbalance between their potent hitting and underwhelming pitching, which Fangraphs' Dave Cameron recently explored. As Cameron notes, however, the staff has not been so bad as to single-handedly keep the club from contending, and the defense shares in the blame for the Halos' inability to prevent runs. As for a replacement, the team seems to see a lot of promise in recent acquisition Grant Green, who has a 108 OPS+ in 95 plate appearances since taking over for the injured Kendrick. But Green has always been considered a project defensively and has been graded harshly by advanced metrics in his short stint thus far.